A private prison hired by the federal government to detain people for civil proceedings treats them like criminals, is plagued by suicides attempts and fails to provide detainees with adequate dental care, a new report shows.
Federal investigators recommended a full review after a May report by the Inspector General found “significant health and safety risks” to detainees at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Adelanto, California.
GEO Group, a private prison company, owns and operates the facility is under a federal contract. At the time of the inspection, there were 307 guards for the 1,659 detainees housed at the private prison.
The investigators found nooses in cells, improper and overly restrictive use of segregation and untimely and inadequate medical care to detainees.
The GEO guard escorting the investigators removed the first noose found in a detainee cell, “but stopped after realizing many cells” had nooses hanging from the vents.
One detainee told the investigators, “I’ve seen a few attempted suicides using the braided sheets by the vents and then the guards laugh at them and call them ‘suicide failures’ once they are back from medical.”
Other detainees told the investigators “the braided sheets can be easily unfurled to temporarily create privacy within the cell, specifically the bathroom area or individual bunk area. Two detainees reported tying the braided sheets from one bedpost to another to serve as a clothes-line.”
At least seven suicide attempts at the center from December 2016 to October 2017 were reported.
“ICE’s lack of response to address this matter at the Adelanto Center shows a disregard for detainee health and safety,” the report stated. The investigators found 14 detainees in segregation and seven of them were held there prior to being found guilty of a prohibited act or rule violation.
After seeing six detainees escorted in handcuffs and shackles, the segregation supervisors told the investigators that all detainees are in restraints when outside their cells — such treatment “does not comport with ICE standards and gives the appearance of criminal, rather than civil, custody,” the investigator said.
The investigators found that slightly more than a third of all grievances filed from November 2017 to April 2018 complained of a lack of urgent medical care.
A previous quality improvement investigation noted, “60 to 80 clinic appointments were canceled because contract guards were not available to take detainees from their cells to their appointments.”
Regarding dental care, detainees are required to receive checkups, cleaning and other dental procedures after an individual has been in detention for six months.
The facility had two dentists for almost 2,000 detainees—no detainee received a cleaning or had a cavity filled in nearly four years. After interviewing the detainees, the investigator found “one person waited eight months to have a tooth pulled, while another had the wrong tooth pulled.”
A center dentist stated that he only provides “palliative care” and does not have time to complete cleaning or fillings. The dentist dismissed the necessity of fillings if patients commit to brushing and flossing. Floss is only available through detainee commissary accounts, but the dentist suggested detainees could use string from their socks to floss if they were “dedicated to dental hygiene.”